Dutch poultry farmers keep their birds indoors to comply with a government order after a highly contagious form of avian flu was found in two dead swans this week.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture said it was not yet clear how long the order would be enforced, but noted that no cases had been found in commercial poultry.
Poultry is a 1.6 billion euro industry in the Netherlands, Europe’s largest exporter of chicken and eggs, employing 10,000 people on 2,000 farms.
Researchers at Wageningen University found a highly pathogenic form of the H5N8 virus in swans after earlier swan infections in Russia and Israel this year.
“The virus was probably introduced into the Netherlands by other (migrating) bird species, whereupon local bird populations were infected. This suggests that the virus is circulating locally among wild birds in the Netherlands, ”the researchers said.
Eric Hubers, poultry farmer and spokesman for the Dutch LTO agribusiness, said he supported the government’s order.
The economic damage from the move depends on how long the birds have to stay indoors, as birds no longer qualify for the more lucrative free-range designation if they have to be kept indoors for more than 16 weeks.
He said the country learned to protect birds indoors and prevent transmission between farms following the 2003 avian flu outbreak that killed 30 million chickens in the country.
Outbreaks in 2014, 2016 and 2017 were contained with only modest consequences.
Last month the European Union called on countries to step up surveillance against possible avian flu outbreaks in wild and domestic birds.
Australian Associated Press
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